Local air quality co-benefits can provide complementary support for ambitious climate action and can enable progress on related Sustainable Development Goals. Here we show that the transformation of the energy system implied by the emission reduction pledges brought forward in the context of the Paris Agreement on climate change (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) substantially reduces local air pollution across the globe. The NDCs could avoid between 71 and 99 thousand premature deaths annually in 2030 compared to a reference case, depending on the stringency of direct air pollution controls. A more ambitious 2 °C-compatible pathway raises the number of avoided premature deaths from air pollution to 178–346 thousand annually in 2030, and up to 0.7–1.5 million in the year 2050. Air quality co-benefits on morbidity, mortality, and agriculture could globally offset the costs of climate policy. An integrated policy perspective is needed to maximise benefits for climate and health.